A motorbike accident left Carl Harding as a T7 Complete Paraplegic. With support from Help for Heroes, he has now found a new passion in archery.
“I was physically fit, on the verge of promotion and then my back was smashed. Everything changed.”
Carl Harding’s military career was cut short in February 1997 when, on duty at RAF College Cranwell, he was involved in a motorbike accident: “I was driving uphill, on the other side there was a van overtaking and we had a head-on collision. I was in the intensive care unit for seven days.”
After lifesaving surgery, Carl was transferred to Stoke Mandeville Hospital where he tried to come to terms with his injuries. Facing major challenges, such as adapting to a wheelchair and accepting the loss of his career, life as he knew it was over.
The birth of his son, Sam, added more stress and worry for Carl. He did the best he could to be as involved as possible. But moments a father treasures like holding his son’s hand as he learned to walk or playing football with him in the park were impossible.
That changed when Sam suggested they take up archery. It meant the world to Carl to finally have the chance for them to do an activity together: “It’s one of the few sports we can enjoy together and it’s fantastic I can do it unassisted.”
A chance to bond with his son has now blossomed into a real passion, which gives Carl a purpose and independence he thought was lost forever after his accident: “Archery is opening doors I never thought I’d go through.”
Carl’s determined attitude has meant he hasn’t let his disability hold him back, although it is something he feels he’ll never be able to fully accept: “Have I come to terms with it? No. But I know what my worst was, so my aim is always try and get closer to my best.”
This ‘best’ is when Carl is focused and committed to achieving something. He had that in bucket loads in the military and now archery fills the void: “It’s such a great thing to have in my life and gives me something to focus on. The only arrow that counts is the next one and everything before that is history.”
As for his ambitions going forward, Carl believes he’ll have the support he needs for the future: “Help for Heroes can enable me to achieve my aspirations.”
Living with serious injuries will be an ongoing battle for Carl. But with his passion for archery, the love of his family and the support of Help for Heroes he knows he won’t have to face it alone: “The road is long but there is light at the end of the tunnel.”